Liam Messam of New Zealand scores a try during their
international rugby union match against Wales at the
Millenium Stadium in Cardiff. Photo by Reuters
Pass and catch - the two most basic skills of rugby, and
two skills that seemed to elude Wales as they slumped to their
sixth loss in a row, succumbing 33-10 to a clinical All Black
It was these basic skills that really were the difference
between the two teams, as Wales lacked the ability to hold
onto the ball for any length of time. Poor handling,
inaccurate kicking and an inability to manipulate numbers
effectively ensured Wales were chasing the game after
securing enough possession and territory to threaten in the
In contrast the All Blacks were able to make the most of
their opportunities, create something from nothing and take
the sting out of the Welsh challenge.
Chances were few in this game, as Wales did a good job of
defending from set play, but the All Blacks persisted and
were dangerous on the counter, where they always had their
opposition on the ropes.
They shot out to a 23-0 lead in the first half, effectively
taking the game away from Wales. A physical first 20 saw them
kick three penalties and gain a lead, and in the second 20
they began to fire and scored two outstanding tries.
But we can talk about the great start, the lethal
counterattack, the dominant scrum and the steely defence of
the All Blacks all we want. What will remain the talking
point of the game was a moment which occurred in the first
minute, when Andrew Hore took out Welsh lock Bradley Davies
in what was the most recent in a long series of cheap shots
in recent times.
The act will be condemned by the New Zealand public, as it
wasn't dissimilar to those All Black captain Richie McCaw has
been on the receiving end of in recent years.
We can also expect it to be condemned by the IRB, who will
once again be put under the spotlight as they set to hand out
what they deem an appropriate punishment.
The inconsistencies in these decisions over the past 12
months have been a key theme, making it hard to predict what
sort of ban Hore will receive.
But back to the game. The All Blacks were met by a physical
Welsh team which was up for the challenge, and the physical
nature of the game was soon made clear, as Wales players
began dropping like flies, losing three men before the break.
They were passionate as always and even after trailing by
33-0, were able to fight back and score two tries in the
final 20 minutes.
They looked to bomb the All Blacks back three early,
targeting the dangerous Julian Savea, who looked shaky. But
you kick back to the All Blacks at your peril. Savea tapped
back to Israel Dagg who broke four tackles and made the break
which led to a brilliant try in the opposite corner to Liam
From there on the All Blacks began to look more polished as
the back three looked lively on the counterattack, whilst the
midfield too looked dangerous running. With ball in hand they
didn't play an overly expansive game, often looking to kick
in behind the Welsh backline and chasing hard to pin them
inside their own 22.
The second half saw them forced to defend for lengthy periods
as they struggled to control the ball as they had in the
first half. But they performed well, withstanding several
waves of attack before finally being pushed over by a 13 man
The pick of the All Black forwards was once again Richie
McCaw, who was outstanding on defence and covered for other's
mistakes on multiple occasions.
Liam Messam had a strong game too, being physical on defence
and running the ball well. Both locks were busy, while the
front row was dominant at scrum time.
In the backs Aaron Cruden kicked well, while Conrad Smith was
every bit as good as McCaw, tidying up a lot of ball and was
safe on defence. Julian Savea was dangerous running, and
Israel Dagg showed himself to be lethal in space.